Dapper Dan on Trying to “Destigmatize” the Hoodie
On the eve of the release of his latest GAP hoodie, we briefly spoke to Dapper Dan about his new-found appreciation for hoodies and the influence of logo-mania.
There was a time when Dapper Dan, the most stylish dresser Harlem has ever produced, wouldn’t be caught outside wearing a hoodie — despite the fact he knew how to design and sell them.
“The hoodies that I made back in the day, those were part of outfits,” Dan, who is 78 years old, told Okayplayer. “Gucci, Fendi, and Louis Vuitton outfits. And there was no mistaking, [they cost] $1200… I wouldn’t wear a hoodie. Not until this, here.”
The “this, here” the legendary designer is speaking about is the DAP GAP Plaid Hoodie, which dropped earlier today (Wednesday, November 30th.) The hoodie, which is retailing for $128, comes in four colors: three plaid colors — red, green, and blue — and one in a cool camel herringbone.
On the day before his drop, Dan spent the day in Harlem celebrating the release. In. the morning, he was at the GAP’s factory on 125th Street in Harlem. Then, later that evening, he went 20 blocks uptown to the Brotherhood Sister Sol headquarters, where he, in partnership with GAP, gave $100,000 to the nonprofit that serves Black and Latinx kids. He also gave out a bunch of hoodies and held a talk with Brotherhood Sister Sol co-founder Khary Lazarre-White. Harlem rapper ASAP Ferg — who is from the neighborhood — also made an appearance, bringing Rowdy Rebel with him and leaving his “Plain Jane” platinum plaque behind as “a gift.”
The talk, which lasted a little over an hour, touched on a number of topics from Dan’s upbringing to his time traveling Africa as a young man. By now, the Dapper Dan lore is well known. In the early ’80s he opened up Dapper Dan’s Boutique on 125th Street. The store, which was open 24/7, became a phenomenon, serving high rolling clientele, which included athletes, rappers, and drug dealers (a lot of drug dealers.) Dan’s innovation was getting luxury luggage from places like Fendi, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci, and making custom clothes (including hoodies) out of it. This could only go on for so long; brands eventually got hip and his shop was forced to shut down.
However, his influence still reigned supreme. After a lean couple of decades, interest in Dapper Dan started building, especially online. In 2017, Gucci tried to release what was effectively an old Dapper Dan design without acknowledging the designer. This led to a fierce backlash on social media, which then led to Gucci partnering up with Dan officially.
When asked today, Dan points to the popularity of Logo-mania — where a brand’s logo is used as a pattern throughout an outfit — as being his biggest contribution.
“Nothing is more significant right now than Logo-mania ,” Dan said. “Nothing, because it’s so powerful you can’t escape it. Because as people move up the social ladder, they want everybody to know that they climbed and nothing defines climb better than Logo-mania . You can make the most exclusive outfit, but they don’t know what it costs or who it comes from. Logos define this.”
For, Dan, who is almost always wearing a tailored suit and shoes, the hoodie is a complicated piece of clothing, especially for people of color. During his talk with Okayplayer, he mentioned Trayvon Martin and his fate being one of the reasons he he would like to “destigmatize” the hoodie.
“I want to present the hoodie,” Dan said. “That’s why you see me with a scarf, or a kerchief, or ascot, or something like that. So that when they see black people or brown people in a hoodie it doesn’t automatically signal that, ‘This is a thug or hood’ or something like that.”
It was also important for Dan, who built a reputation for outfits that will run you thousands of dollars, to have something more accessible. In some ways, this is the first Dapper Dan product that was made for the working class masses.
“I had a partnership with Gucci and the people that I come from couldn’t afford them,” Dan said. “They always had me ’cause I was standing’ on the corner. I take the bus or take the train, but this gives them a chance to wear me.”
Although the price is accessible that doesn’t mean the hoodie will be easy to get. This is the second GAP and DAP drop to hit. Earlier in the year, Dan had his first drop, which sold out almost instantly. This forced GAP and Dan to regroup. They rereleased the hoodie a couple of times.
“They had no clue,” Dan said, speaking about GAP and how they handled the first drop. “Corporate America — corporate period — never have a clue when it comes to us, people of color.So, when they first put out the first drop they didn’t know.”
The latest GAP hoodie was released earlier today. It looks like it’s already sold out.
Corrections: An earlier version of this article wrote that Dapper Dan donated $100,000 to Brotherhood Sister Sol. GAP provided the donation. ASAP Ferg is not an alumni of Brotherhood Sister Sol.